Rescuers and Others
|When word got out of the Donner Party's plight, American settlers in Northern California rallied to save them. Some shouldered heavy packs and risked their lives trudging up into the Sierra, braving blizzards, hunger, exhaustion, and frostbite to bring the sufferers out of the mountains. We must not forget, however, that their heroism would have been in vain without the assistance of many others who contributed money, food, clothing, horses, and other supplies, or who transported provisions, maintained supply camps, brought the emigrants from the midway camps to the settlements, and opened their homes to the survivors.|
|Name||Age||Relief Party||Name||Age||Relief Party|
|Adolph Bruheim||||First Relief||Riley Septimus Moutrey||||First Relief|
|Charles L. Cady||23||Second Relief||Howard Oakley||[?]||Third Relief|
|Nicholas Clark||||Second Relief||Edward Gantt Pyle, Sr.||61||Auxiliary|
|Edward "Ned" Coffeemeyer||||First & Fourth Reliefs||Edward Gantt Pyle, Jr.||22||Auxiliary|
|William Coon||[?]||Auxiliary||James F. Reed||46||Second Relief|
|Matthew Dofar||[?]||Second Relief||Daniel Rhoads||25||First Relief|
|Patrick H. Dunn||[?]||Second Relief||John Pierce Rhoads||28||First & Fourth Reliefs|
|William H. Eddy||||Third Relief||Matthew Dill Ritchie||41||Auxiliary|
|William O. Fallon||[?]||Fourth Relief||William Dill Ritchie||19||Auxiliary|
|William M. Foster||31||Third & Fourth Reliefs||Joseph Sels||[?]||Fourth Relief|
|Joseph Gendreau||[?]||Second Relief||John Sinclair||[?]||Host|
|Aquilla Glover||||First Relief||John Schull Stark||30||Third Relief|
|Brittain Greenwood||[17-20]||Second Relief||Charles Stone||[?]||Second Relief|
|Caleb Greenwood||84||Auxiliary||John Augustus Sutter||44||Supplier, Host|
|William Johnson||[?]||Supplier, Host||William Thompson||[?]||Third Relief|
|Edward Meyer Kern||||Paymaster||George W. Tucker||15||Auxiliary|
|Sebastian Keyser||||Fourth Relief||Reason P. Tucker||40||First & Fourth Reliefs|
|Perry McCoon||||Auxiliary||John Turner||[?]||Second Relief|
|William McCutchen||||Second Relief||Joseph Verrot||||Auxiliary; Second Relief|
|Hiram Owens Miller||||Second Relief||Selim Edward Woodworth||32||Second Relief|
Adolph Bruheim or Brueheim was 21 when he came to California in 1842.
In 1845-46 he was recorded as working for Theodor Cordua at Neu
Mecklenburg near the present site of Marysville. A document in
the Fort Sutter Papers clears up a minor mystery: in September 1846
Edward Kern and James Adolph Bruheim signed an agreement that Kern would
furnish a horse and pay ten dollars a week to Bruheim for delivering
correspondence between Sacramento and Sonoma. Although the document is
signed only "Adolph Bruheim," the use of "James Adolph" in the body of
the letter and Kern's other references to his courier as "Jim" confirm
that the "Greasy
Jim" mentioned in J. Q. Thornton's Oregon and California in 1848
must have been Bruheim.
Charles L. Cady was born in Buffalo, New York, on 19 Sept 1824.
James F. Reed refers to Cady, Nicholas Clark, and
Stone as "the boys"-- young, active men who
arrived at the camps 24 hours before the other members of
Parents: William Clark and Rachel Ward
b. August 10, 1816 in Petersham, Worcester Co., MA
A shoemaker by trade, Clark had already lived a life of adventure
before he joined the second Donner relief party. (See his biographical
sketch for more information.) The Second Relief appointed Clark to
remain at Alder Creek to
Baptiste look after the Donners until they could be rescued.
During his stay, Clark killed a bear cub weighing some seventy pounds,
a welcome source of food.
Sailor. After returning with the Fourth Relief, Coffeemeyer told such gruesome stories about Louis Keseberg's cannibalism that Keseberg sued him for slander, and won. Coffeemeyer bought some items from the estates of George and Jacob Donner at an auction at Sutter's Fort on June 3, 1847. He lingered in the general area of Sutter's Fort for nearly a year, for he is mentioned several times in the New Helvetia Diary up until March 1848, but after that he simply disappears from the historical record.
Overland emigrant of 1846 about whom virtually nothing is known. Coon stayed in the base camp in the foothills with George Tucker, who remembered him as a half-wit who only knew how to eat and sleep.
Mountain man about whom little else is known.
According to H. H. Bancroft, Dunn was a native of Maine who arrived in California on a whaler in 1846 and went to the Sonoma area, where he was recruited for the Second Relief. As a result of his participation in the Donner rescue, Dunn lost some toes to frostbite. In later years He went to southern California where he got into trouble: he joined a gang of desperados and was tried twice for murder. In 1857 Dunn went to Arizona, where he died several years later.
A member of the Donner Party (see his biographical entry), Eddy survived the Forlorn Hope. After six weeks' recuperation Eddy attempted to join the Second Relief in early March but had to turn back. A few weeks later, however, he and fellow Forlorn Hope survivor William Foster led the Third Relief to the camps. Eddy knew that his his wife and daughter had died, but hoped -- in vain -- to find his son James still alive.
A mountain man and a
mountain of a man, William Fallon or O'Fallon was known as "Le Gros" because of
his huge size. He was "as spry as a cat," a noted horseman who could
mount a horse on the run or pick a coin from the ground as he galloped
by. Fallon was active in many parts of the West from the 1820s into the
1840s. The landmark O'Fallons Bluff on the Platte is sometimes said to
have been named
A member of the Donner Party (see his biographical entry) and survivor of the Forlorn Hope, Foster returned to the lake camp with the Third Relief to rescue his son George, only find that the boy had died and been cannibalized. Foster, the only surviving adult male of the extended Murphy family, made a second trip back to the mountains with the Fourth Relief, no doubt to salvage what property he could from the ruins.
Gendreau -- spelled variously as Gendrou, Jaundro, and Jondrieux in the records -- was a member of the Second Relief. François Gendreau, a Canadian employee of Sutter's, is mentioned several times in the New Helvetia Diary. His wife was a Walla Walla Indian; one of their children was buried at the San Jose Mission in 1844. Bancroft was uncertain whether it was François or his son who went to the rescue, but the Donner relief documents make it clear that it was the son, Joseph.
b. abt 1817 in KY
Overland emigrant of 1846; with
Reason Tucker, a leader of the First Relief.
When Tommy and Patty Reed gave out and had to be taken back to the Breen
cabin, Glover made a solemn vow to their mother, on his word as a Mason,
that he would go back and get them. She trusted him and consented to let
the children go. Glover served 43 days in the Donner relief at $3.00 per
Son of famed mountain man
Caleb Greenwood and his wife Batchicka, a Crow
Indian woman. "Brit" Greenwood gave conflicting
information about his age to census takers and voting
registrars over the years, but evidently he was born
between 1827 and 1830 somewhere in the Missouri River
"Old Greenwood" helped round up assistance but did not go up to the camps. For more information about Greenwood and his remarkable career, see Charles Kelly and Dale L. Morgan, Old Greenwood: The Story of Caleb Greenwood, Trapper, Pathfinder, and Early Pioneer (Georgetown, CA: Talisman, 1965).
Surprisingly little is known for certain
about William Johnson. He was an English sailor out of Boston who
first came to California about 1840 as the mate of the Alciope. In 1845 he
and Sebastian Keyser bought the Gutiérrez ranch on the Bear
River, about two miles east of modern Wheatland, California. Johnson's humble
home, a two-room log and adobe structure, was the American settlement
closest to the mountains and became a looked-for goal of overland
emigrants. He allowed several families of 1846 overlanders
to stay on his ranch for the winter, and it was there that an emaciated
William Eddy staggered out of
the foothills to seek help for the Donner Party. Johnson donated beef
and wheat to the relief parties, for which his ranch was the staging
Draftsman with Fremont's 1845 expedition. After the Bear Flag Revolt (June 1846) Kern commanded the garrison at Sutter's Fort with the rank of lieutenant in the California Battalion. He was appointed to manage the funds collected for the Donner relief. Kern was regarded with scant respect by members of the relief parties; uncomplimentary remarks about his behavior were appended to the Ritchie-Tucker First Relief Diary, and many years later R. P. Tucker recalled Kern strutting about "as big as the dog in the Smok hous." Kern's papers dealing with the relief of the Donner Party are located at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. They were published in Eberstadt, Edward, ed. A Transcript of the Fort Sutter Papers, Together with the Historical Commentaries Accompanying Them. New York: De Vinne Press, 1921.
A native of Austria, Keyser was trapper who had gone overland to Oregon with Sutter in 1838 and later joined him at New Helvetia. In 1845 he settled on Bear River as a half-owner of William Johnson's ranch. The following year he married Elizabeth Rhoades, sister of John and Daniel; she left him for a while, but they were reunited. Keyser sold his interest in the ranch in 1849 and operated a ferry over the Cosumnes River, where he was drowned in 1850, leaving one child.
Said to have been an English sailor, McCoon had come to California in 1843 or '44 and established a ranch on the Cosumnes River. McCoon owned a schooner and transported the Second Relief across the Sacramento River. He did not, as has mistakenly been said, propose to Virginia Reed, but did marry a Donner Party survivor, Elitha Donner (see her entry).
Donner Party member (see his
McCutchen had gone ahead to Sutter's Fort with
Stanton to get supplies, but became ill and was unable to return.
When McCutchen and Reed attempted to rescue their trapped families in
early November they were forced to turn back by the snow. Their next
attempt, the Second Relief, got
through in February. McCutchen found that his daughter Harriet had died;
he and Reed reburied her remains.
Overland emigrant of 1846 who started out as a teamster for the Donners, then went ahead with the Bryant-Russell Party. (See his biographical entry on the Teamsters page.) Miller joined Reed as a member of the Second Relief. During the blizzard that caught the rescuers and refugees at Starved Camp, Miller's hands became so cold that when he tried to split some kindling, the skin of his fingers cracked open. After the storm finally abated, he carried Thomas Reed out of the mountains to safety.
b. abt 1824
Overland emigrant of 1846, a teamster for Fielding Lard, whose daughter he married en route. Their wedding was noted by diarists Edwin Bryant and J. Quinn Thornton. Moutrey, whose name is spelled in a variety of ways, settled in Santa Clara County. He gave an account of the First Relief to a newspaper reporter in 1888 while he was petitioning Congress unsuccessfully for compensation for his efforts in the Donner Relief.
According to one source, Oakley was a Mormon who sailed from New York with Sam Brannan in the Brooklyn; this is probably an error, however, as his name is absent from other Brooklyn passenger lists and his name is not elsewhere mentioned in Mormon records. He was living in San Francisco when the call went out for volunteers to rescue the Donner Party. Oakley and his wife Mary Ann are mentioned in the early alcalde records of Santa Cruz in 1848, but what became of them afterwards is presently unknown.
b. 09 Sept 1785 in Virginia, son of William Pyle, Jr.
(b. 1755 in MD, d. 28 Dec 1814 in KY) and Lucretia Keyes
(b. abt 1765 in VA, d. abt 1810 in Lexington, KY)
Overland emigrant of 1846,
mentioned several times in Jacob Wright Harlan's memoir. By an
interesting coincidence, "Old Man" Pyle was a
first cousin of Margret
Reed of the Donner Party
-- his mother, Lucretia Keyes Pyle, and her father, Humphrey Keyes, were
brother and sister. It's
doubtful, however, that the two emigrants ever knew of their relationship.
b. 18 Aug 1824 Monroe Co., IN
Overland emigrant of 1846.
Like his father, Edward Jr. was hired to carry supplies to meet the First Relief. He was helping to escort
the survivors out of the foothills when he
Virginia Reed. Edward Jr. is listed as
serving 27 days and earning $40.50.
Donner Party member (see his biographical entry). Although his
reputation has been subject to some controversy, there is no denying
Reed played a major role in the rescue of the Donner Party. After a
grueling journey to Sutter's Fort, Reed turned around after only two
days' rest to take supplies back to the wagon train that had banished
him. The snow defeated him and he was forced to return until conditions
were more favorable for another attempt, but in the intervening months
he continued publicize the plight of the emigrants in the mountains.
As a result of his his efforts, the people of San Francisco had already raised money
and were organizing a rescue party when news of the Forlorn Hope arrived from Sutter's
b.7 Dec 1821
Overland emigrant of 1846 and son of Thomas Foster
and Elizabeth Forster Rhoads. Daniel and his brother
John were living in the vicinity of Johnson's Ranch when the Forlorn
Hope arrived with news of the Donner Party's dire situation. They joined the First Relief;
1873 account, which he dictated for historian
H. H. Bancroft.
b. 5 Oct 1818
b. 19 April 1805 in Pennsylvania
The family name
is also spelled "Ritchey," but it's unclear how the Donner rescuer
spelled it himself. Given the title "colonel" from
his service in the Black Hawk War, M. D. Ritchie and his family were overland emigrants of 1846.
They arrived in California too late to find a permanent home, so they
lived at Johnson's Ranch during the winter of 1846-47. In February 1847,
Indians helped Forlorn Hope survivor
William Eddy stagger up to the
first white person he saw at Johnson's Ranch, Col. Ritchie's teenaged daughter
Harriet. She burst into tears and helped the exhausted wayfarer into the
family cabin while the Ritchies got help and set out to rescue Eddy's
b. 22 Feb 1828 Warren Co., Indiana
An overland emigrant of 1846 and son of
Ritchie, William was hired to take supplies to the First Relief as
they came down from the mountains. He served for 19 days and earned
Joseph Sels' surname is spelled variously as Sells, Sel, and Sell; he sometimes went by the surname Foster; and is also referred to as "Jack the Sailor." Other than that he was a sailor, next to nothing is known about him. Like Coffeemeyer, he visited Sutter's Fort several times between May 1847 and March 1848, but after that nothing further appears.
A Scot by birth, Sinclair had worked for the
Hudson's Bay Company in Oregon and had been the editor of a Hawaiian
newspaper before his arrival in California in 1839. He lived on the
Rancho del Paso two or three miles north of Sutter's Fort, across the
American River. Sinclair served as the Alcalde of the Sacramento
district from 1846 to 1849, and it was in this capacity that he became
involved in the rescue of the Donner Party.
Parents: William Stark (b. abt 1780 in VA?, d. 1816), m. 11 May 1802 in Bourbon Co., KY to Leah Shortridge (b. abt 1783 in VA)
b. abt 1817 in Wayne Co., IN
A son-in-law of Matthew D. Ritchie, Stark single-handedly rescued members of the Breen, Graves, and Jacob Donner families from Starved Camp. He was a large, strong man who weighed 220 pounds. John Breen wrote,
H. H. Bancroft, Stark was county judge of
Napa Co. 1850-51; a member of the legislature in 1851 and
1855-56; 1851-68 lived near Calistoga; lived in or near Guenoc, Lake Co., from 1868 till his death.
Little is known about Stone; he was one of the three vigorous young men -- "the boys," Reed called them -- who arrived at the lake camp a day ahead of the rest of the Second Relief. Reed left him to take care of the handful of emigrants at the lake camp, but Stone disliked the look of the weather and deserted, along with Charles Cady. What became of him afterwards is uncertain, but H. H. Bancroft believed that he may have been the individual named Stone killed by Indians in Lake County in 1849.
b. 15 Feb 1803 Kandern, Baden, Switzerland
Sutter's name was actually Suter, pronounced
"Sooter." This spelling and "Suitor" often appear in emigrant
diaries and other early documents.
There are several references to men named
"William Thompson" in the records of early California, but it is
virtually impossible to determine how many William Thompsons there
actually were and which one was the Donner Party rescuer. It seems
likely that he was the William Thompson who worked at Nathan Spear's
mill in San Francisco in 1845-46.
b. 15 Dec 1831, Zanesville, OH
George Tucker and his father Reason were overland emigrants of 1846;
they were members of the Smith
Company, with which the Graves family had
traveled before joining the Donner Party.
b. abt 1807 in Culpepper, VA
Overland emigrant of 1846; member of the Smith
Company, with which the Graves family had traveled. Tucker served with the Donner rescue efforts for 39 days and earned $117.00.
John Turner had a long history on the frontier before his involvement
with the Donner relief. He had come to California in 1826 as a member of
Jedediah Smith's historic first overland expedition. In the 1830s he was
a member of several fur trading expeditions led by Michel Laframboise and Ewing
Young, and the 1840s found him hunting and trapping in California, often
with Old Greenwood. It was on one such
trip that he met Edwin Bryant on November 2, 1846. "The swearing of
Turner, a man of immense frame and muscular power, during our evening's
conversation, was almost terrific. I had heard mountain swearing
before," the diarist wrote, "but his went far beyond all former
examples. He could do all the swearing for our army in Mexico and then
have a surplus."
Verrot, a native of France, arrived in California with Fremont in 1844. After William Eddy stumbled into the Ritchie cabin in January 1847, Verrot was one of the men who went to bring the six other survivors of the Forlorn Hope to Johnson's Ranch. Verrot accompanied the Third Relief as far as Mule Springs, taking supplies to the base camp there and returning with the horses. Although he is not named in other documents, it seems that Verrot was also a member of the Second Relief, as he is listed as a purchaser some of Jacob Donner's goods at Alder Creek on March 2. He, too, is mentioned as visiting Sutter's Fort numerous times in 1847 and 1848.
b. 27 Nov 1815
A son of
Samuel Woodworth, author of the immensely popular poem and song
"The Old Oaken
Bucket," Selim E. Woodworth held the naval rank of "Passed Midshipman"
-- basically a lieutenant who had not yet received a commission. The
Secretary of the Navy sent him overland bearing dispatches to the Pacific Squadron in Oregon.
The "energetic young officer" left Independence, Missouri, on May 14,
1846, "intending to get to his journey’s end in just one hundred days,
if it be in the power of horse flesh to accomplish the distance in that
time." He achieved his goal, arriving in Oregon on August 19, just
98 days after setting out.
Breen | George Donner | Jacob Donner
| Eddy | Graves | Keseberg | McCutchen
Murphy | Reed | Wolfinger | Teamsters and Others | Rescuers
| Home Page | Chronology | Roster |
Statistics | Documents | Myths | Recent Books
| "Unfortunate Emigrants" | Bulletin | Site Updates | Guestbook | Links | FAQ | Utah Crossroads |
Student Page | Sources | Donner Party News
E-mail to Kristin Johnson
Revised: 31 Jan 2006
Original content copyright ©1997-2006 by Kristin Johnson. All rights reserved.